Debunking the Mythical Value of a Video “Subscriber”

Fifteen years ago I worked at a small newspaper in Georgetown. I was on the editorial side, but I used to hear my colleagues on the “dark” side of advertising boast about our subscription rates. They were 3 times the quantity of newspapers we printed each week! I asked our chief lying officer (CLO) about this, and he said it was based on each reader “passing along” to friends and co-workers. We paid homeless people to deliver the papers to the affluent members of the Georgetown community and usually found bundles of the papers under bridges and in dumpsters. This paper went out of business in 9 months.

newspaper.jpgFolks, the value of an online-video “subscriber” is about the same. I once got excited when I watched my YouTube subscription base go from 20 to 40 and now 90. Since I don’t view most of the videos to which I subscribe, I didn’t have great expectations.┬áBut it gave me some hope.

But I’m here to shatter any hope you’d have that subscriptions are going to boost your views. Not going to happen.

3870 people subscribed to my Yahoo “studio.” Want to know how many people have seen the “Angry Commenter” video I uploaded 2 days ago? 34. That’s less than once percent of my “subscribers” if you assume nobody but subscribers watched it. Yahoo’s UI buries “favorites” and “subscriptions,” so this might jump when they decide to give subscriptions the prominence on a log-in homepage that YouTube provides.

Here’s what subscribers CAN do however. They’re your fans. They’ll start the buzz if you have a good video. And they’ll generally give you better ratings and comments than the rest. Plus they can jumpstart your video since there’s virtually no way to catch any views in the “most recently added” section of big sites like YouTube or Yahoo. Being the most recent video on a site with a good viewer/video ratio may help. But it’s marginal.

So celebrate your subscribers with caution. And hope that each viewer is passing on the video to three friends.

5 Replies to “Debunking the Mythical Value of a Video “Subscriber””

  1. So how do I fit in? I’m a fan, but not a subscriber. I’ve seen many of your videos, but not all (and I’ve watched a select few several times). I do pass on the videos I enjoy to several people (I have a base of about 20 fellow captive employees to draw upon).

    I see where you’re going with this and I do agree. But I think there needs to be a bit of a clarification with the levels of fan-dom. You classify your subscribers as “fans” when “die-hard” or “uber” should be included as a modifier.

    Me? I’m a fan. You do good work and I pass it on. Same with idonothingallday (but I can’t watch his videos at work). I do my best to follow your “career” to catch the latest gags.

    So while I personally don’t need any recognition* [see below], I think other fans (and uber fans) need the recognition.

    * [While I appreciate the web traffic, I have yet to capitalize on it. That’s my problem, not yours. And I doubt you’ll be depositing any of your Revver money into my account regardless of any amount of begging I may use.]

  2. Nalts, I’m a subscriber and I watch your videos. In fact, I went back through your archive and watched most of your old ones too.

    But I do agree. I only have one subscriber (besides you) who regularly comments. In fact, he/she just commented today that he/she named his/her kitten Otto after my cat.

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